The U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has
developed nanoscale ropes that are capable of braiding themselves and enduring
Zuckermann, study leader and the Facility Director of the Biological
Nanostructures Facility in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Molecular
Foundry, and Rachel Segalman, a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory and a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the
University of California, Berkeley, along with a team of scientists, have
ropes that have similar properties to biological materials.
hierarchal self assembly is the hallmark of biological materials such as
collagen, but designing synthetic structures that do this has been a major
challenge," said Zuckermann.
created these nanoscale ropes by designing synthetic polymers that can assemble
into more complicated structures all by themselves. The team began with a block
copolymer, which is a polymer with two or more different monomers.
block copolymers self assemble into nanoscale
structures, but we wanted to see how the detailed sequence and
functionality of bio-inspired units could be used to make more complicated
structures," said Segalman.
this, the team worked with bio-inspired polymers known as peptoids, which
imitate peptides to produce proteins in nature. But the team wanted to use
peptoids to produce synthetic structures that act like proteins.
and his team then robotically synthesized, processed and added solution to the
peptoid pieces to make them self assemble. What they ended up with were
self-made structures and shapes with braided helices. The helix's ability to be
controlled "atom-by-atom" as well as its hierarchal structure makes
it so that it can be used as a "template for mineralizing complex
structures on a nanometer
braided helices are one of the first forays into making atomically defined
block copolymers," said Zuckermann. "The idea is to take something we
normally think of as plastic, and enable it to adopt structures that are more
complex and capable of higher function, such as molecular recognition, which is
what proteins do really well."
of research could potentially be used as scaffolds that direct the production
of nanoscale wires, drug delivery vehicles that aim for a specific disease at
the molecular scale, or to create molecular sensors that separate
step is to take the control they have over the sequence of the structure and
explore how tiny chemical changes adjust the helical structure.
This study was
published in the Journal of the American